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By Tim Dorsey
William Morrow, 2007 ($24.95)
ISBN 10: 0060829672
ISBN 13: 978-0060829674
Reviewed by Shirley H. Wetzel
When Jeff McSwirley graduated from journalism school, he knew he'd have to pay his dues by starting out on the police beat, and that's what happened. Most journalists move on to something more interesting after a few months, but McSwirley has been stuck there for three years with no end in sight. He hates having to go up to grieving friends and relatives and asking them for interviews at the scene of their tragedy, and he's terrible at it. Therein lies the problem - he gets the interviews because he lacks the aggressive techniques of most reporters, politely telling the loved ones that he knows he shouldn't be asking. They love it, and they talk to him when they'll speak to no one else. He cries with them and shares their casseroles. His editor knows a good thing when he sees it, so McSwirley has no chance of moving on up.
In the post-Katrina world, Florida is getting walloped again with one hurricane after another. Serge A. Storms and his drug and booze-addled buddy Coleman follow the storms across the state because Serge loves the rush, the hurricane sex, and the lasagna MREs they score from the National Guard. And being Serge, wherever he goes, deaths, awful, cruel deaths, follow in his wake. For those who are new to this intriguing serial killer, Serge does not practice random murder, but brings his own brand of "justice" to those he believes deserve it - in this case, that includes looters, price gougers, and guys who play their car stereos way too loud.
FBI agent Mahoney, a criminal profiler who spent some time in a mental hospital after getting too close to Serge, has his own theory about the latest murders. At first it appears that Serge has a copy cat, calling himself the Eye of the Storm, who sends taunting letters to the newspaper. Mahoney decides that actually Serge, or whoever the killer is, is in near the end of his run, and his personality is disintegrating. Serge, who takes pride in his work, is incensed that someone is working on his turf, and doing a pretty sloppy job of it.
Oddly enough, the three main characters, McSwirley, Serge, and Mahoney, all have psychiatrists in the same office building and they all visit their shrinks at the same time. The reader gets to hear what goes on in the sessions, and needless to say the sessions are funny, scary, and over-the-top bizarre.
Serial killers are not usually sympathetic characters, and the methods Serge uses are horrendous, but somehow I can't help but like Serge. The people he rids the world of deserve some kind of punishment, and while I can't condone Serge's "overkill" methods, I can appreciate his desire to give some people a dose of their own medicine. After spending some quality time with Serge and Coleman during the hurricane chase, McSwirley tells officials that "as bizarre and irate as he may seem, I discovered a consistent underlying moral code." And since it's only fiction, I say "good for you, Serge A. Storm, keep putting those annoying jerks in their place."
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